All posts filed under: Travel

A Postcard from Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

I have stacks of recipes to share with you all, and was in the midst of writing one up for you, when I thought: no, I really don’t want to do that right now. What I have to do is share some pictures from Sabah with you first. It is a wonderful place, and while I am here I am keen to share it with you. Sabah is in Malaysian Borneo. A tropical part of the world, it has sea and rainforest, monkeys and bears, and lots of fantastic food, particularly seafood. I have been busy since my arrival, that won’t surprise you much, and have seen and eaten lots. The food has been wonderful, as good as I had been told, but I would be telling a lie if I didn’t tell you that it was the wildlife that stole my heart. Oran utangs (translates as man of the jungle), proboscis monkeys (so called because of their massive nose, they are also called belanda, Malay for Dutchman, as it was thought that the Dutch …

Making Fresh Gozitan Cheese with Rikardu in Gozo, Malta

Scenes from Gozo. Gozo is the second of the three Maltese islands. When you consider that the smallest has only three (elderly) inhabitants, and that Gozo itself is only 8.7 x 4.5 miles, you might be surprised to learn that Gozo has a food culture all of its own. Best among this is the Gozitan fresh cheese, Ġbejniet. I made it my mission to meet a cheesemaker while I was on the island and explore this. The world is a smaller tighter place when you can get close to the origins of your food, and the people who make it. Ġbejniet is made daily by small farmers (one I met, Victor, from the charming Dreams of Horses farm has just a few sheep and makes it daily). I managed to track down Rikardu, who has a farm with 200 sheep and goats which he milks by hand daily, and then makes fresh cheese with the milk while it is still warm. He sells the cheese in his restaurant Ta’ Rikardu, where you can have the …

What to Eat in Madrid & Where to Eat It

Madrid is a serious food city. It is also a city that parties hard and keeps extremely late hours. I went to bed early each night over the weekend that I was there, at 3am. Woah, Madrid! Madrileños eat as they drink, and that eating is a serious business. Their expectations are high, and so they should be, quality abounds, and once you steer clear of the tourist joints, you will eat well. This list is based on my last trip there, a week ago. It is well researched and sampled, but not exhaustive. Madrid is brilliant and exciting in that it has an enviable list of great places to eat. Which is why I plan to go back there as soon as I can manage it. For this trip, I asked the locals, as only people who live there can have the full breadth of experience required to pick a sample for a weekend. Conspicuously absent on this list until my return is Callos Madrileños (Madrid style tripe), Cocido Madrileño (a heavy chickpea based stew) and DiverXO …

A Day in Valletta, Malta: Breakfast, Lunch & Culture

I am reaching the end of a serious stint of work related travels, bouncing in and out of London and landing in Ireland, Malaysia, Portugal (travelling North to South), Madrid and now Malta. Malta is the perfect place to finish. Based on the sleepy island of Gozo (the locals pronounce it Goh-zoh, all slowly), the only thing that moves quickly here are the cats darting for your food, or me, darting for mine. Occasionally. I have been really enjoying my gentle explorations. More on Gozo soon, for I am not finished here yet. Lets starts with Valletta. Yesterday, I headed for the Maltese metropolis, for a wander and bite to eat. Gozo locals think Malta quite intense and busy, and sure, by Gozo standards this is so. For me, it was dreamy and peaceful. Valletta is not an excessively large city, but there is much to see. The entirety of Valletta, is protected by UNESCO, and it is so pretty. Lofty limestone houses with windows jutting out, just to see what you are doing below. …

Greetings from Gozo, Malta

Greetings from Gozo! A small island, just under 9 x 4.5 miles,  and part of the Maltese archipelago, I am based here for 5 days exploring the island, and a little of Malta too. I have just arrived, the photos above are from my (25 minute) ferry journey from Malta. Gorgeous, isn’t it? Despite its size, Gozo is the second largest island of the Maltese archipelago, and it has much to explore. Gorgeous scenery, those azure waters, and hillside villages. Lots of fish and rabbit on the food front, pastries like pastizzi, mahi mahi pie, and that is just the tip of it. The locals are very keen to tell me it is Winter, but it is 26 degrees C and I am toasty warm. After spending a day in London battling the rain, it is a lovely change. You can follow my adventures on twitter and also those of my travelling companions, who are all bloggers but maybe are not so food obsessed. What?! I know. Check in on the #MaltaIsMore hashtag on twitter, instagram and facebook. Tips are welcome, …

Taste Portugal: A Day on the Algarve Clam Digging & Cooking with Heinz Beck [Part 1: How to Catch a Razor Clam & Visiting an Oyster Farm]

I have a terrible life, I know. Last Tuesday, my last day in Portugal on a trip to explore the food and drink (as a guest of Taste Portugal), we finished with a terrific day clam digging and cooking with 3* German but Rome based chef, Heinz Beck. Heinz also has a restaurant in the Algarve at the Conrad, you see, and while he is not based there he visits regularly and spends a lot of time in the kitchen. Despite growing up on the sea, clam digging was entirely new to me, and it was fascinating. Even if we didn’t get that many, as the sea was too choppy and the clams were all buried away. We dragged a few out of their hidey holes though, and I can tell you how to do it. To catch a razor clam, and yes, catch it you do, find a keyhole shaped hole in the sand in an area where the clams live. In the Algarve we went by boat to a sand bed that is …

A Postcard from Langkawi, Malaysia

Greetings from Langkawi, Malaysia! I am just about to go to the airport to head home, but I wanted to share some photos with you from 4 amazing days here before I go. It was my first trip to Malaysia and I am wondering why it has taken me so long to get here. Such warm friendly people, fabulous interesting food and it is so beautiful. The first thing I saw when I landed was a water buffalo mooching idly in a rice paddy field. They had me at buffalo, but the monkeys I saw next? I was sold. Langkawi, it turns out, is a bit of a hidden gem. An archipelago of 99 islands (104 at low tide), with just 2 inhabited, it sits at the northern tip of Malaysia opposite Thailand, which is just half an hour away by boat. You can clearly see Thailand from some parts of the Langkawi shore. 4 days isn’t a lot but I packed so much in. 2 cooking classes, a mangrove tour, a sunset boat trip, …

Cruising with Atul Kochar and P&O Cruises (7 Nights, 4 Countries, 6 Ports & 4 Seas)

Cruises. What are your thoughts on those? I had a few. Namely that they weren’t for independent travellers and were very prescribed (they can be), that I would go crazy stuck on a boat with limited options and that they were generally for much older people. What if the food was rubbish? And I would be stuck with it for a week! Right? Right. I love the sea, boats, and I adore slow travel, but cruising seemed a little too package holiday for me. I have had opportunities to go on and review cruises before, but I have not accepted, primarily because of this. My arm was twisted by the dual impact of friends who told me that I was being very narrow minded, and an opportunity to go on a cruise with London based Michelin starred Indian chef, Atul Kochar. Atul would be teaching a masterclass in his on board restaurant, East, and also leading a market tour in Kotor in Montonegro, a new country for me but one I have wanted to visit. VENICE …

A Weekend in Rome & Where to Eat & Drink There (In Partnership with O2 Travel)

  Despite four visits, Rome continues to surprise and remains one of my favourite cities to return to. It is utterly charming, from the free running nasones (water fountains, they translate as noses!) to the many fountains.  I always see new things, stay in new places, and discover great places to eat & drink. Well, that is why we go isn’t it? For carbonara, gelato, porchetta, Roman pizza, and that is just the start. I have my favourites, of course, that I return to all the time, but on this occasion, as I was there with O2 Travel to road test their internet and app, I used these to explore further.

Cheese Making at Azienda Zootecnica Facenna in Puglia

Tucked away behind a barrage of windy roads lies a small holding. On it, an old two storey house, battered with years and the breeze that besieges its hilltop position. Up some external stairs, there is a little one room apartment. A bed in the corner, windows looking around, a small kitchen and a table. There is no electricity. Below, an old living room with a large fireplace above which cow bells hang on collars of all sizes for the newest calves to the largest bull. Outside the house, overlooking, is a field full of cows. These are Podolica cows, native to Southern Italy. Large working beasts. Beautiful. In front, and to the right of the house, a long shed. In here there are pigs and piglets. Lots of them. Then calves to the left of them and right beside the house, still milk fed by their mothers. Overlooking, literally, balancing on a stony hedge because they are not satisfied with their massive field, some goats. Peeking in. A cat supervises from the top of the stairs …

Where (and What) to Eat in Northern & Central Puglia

When I visited Puglia, I was surprised to discover that locals consider it under the radar. Ok, I am food obsessed, but I have known about Puglia’s food reputation for years, and have long wanted to visit. I thought that everyone did! (And I think that food bods do). Who could resist the lure of the home of burrata and orecchiette, and all of that lovely fish? When I arrived in Bari, I was surprised to see very few tourists. There were lots of locals embracing their city, tiny toddlers whizzing around, stumbling on foot, and older siblings speeding by on bicycles (ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling!). Nonnis and Nonnas sitting outside their houses chattering, perched on stools. Young couples ambling by, deep in romance. A wedding. A random guy shaving his legs in the middle of the street. Bari has character, and lots of them living there too. I was charmed. Where we have corner shops, Bari (and Puglia generally) has salumerias. Small shops rich with meaty bounty, bulbous waxy cheeses dangle from the ceiling (cacciovallo), towers of foccacia …

Next Stop: Puglia & #WeAreInPuglia

Next stop: Puglia. This, I am very excited about. Puglia has a rich culinary heritage and diverse wine culture (I have been told there are 24 types of wine that I need to try – ok then!). It is the heel and spur, if Italy was a boot, and has lots of fresh seafood from its long Adriatic coastline. Orecchiete, burrata, friselli, taralli, pizzette, puccia and lots of other joys pepper too. I am here for four nights to explore, indulge in the food scene and to broadcast all about it from Puglia to Dublin, live. Yes! If in Dublin, be sure to pop down to the roadshow at the Puglia Village on George’s Dock. Running until Tuesday 15th July there will be live music, wine tasting, cooking demos, food samples, and it is all free. They want to share the Puglia love. I will be broadcasting to the Puglia Village on George’s Dock at 1pm and 4pm on Friday (tomorrow) and 11.30am and 1pm on Saturday. You can only catch this at the Puglia …

Making Tagliatelle with Ragu with Anna – an Emilia Romagna Recipe

One thing  that I learned on my recent trip to Emilia Romagna is that every recipe and every dish is personal. Passion exudes from every pore, and never more than when the topic of food or the particulars of a recipe are under discussion. People in Emilia Romagna are very animated over lunch, and they are mainly discussing the food that they are eating, and just that. I love that. People get particularly excited about homemade tagliatelle with ragu. It originates there, and Emilia has one way, Romagna another. Within those regions different families have their own approach. Bologna has a meaty dense ragu of its own (hence, Bolognese sauce). The personal differences are glorious. I had so many different ragus in trattorias all over the region. Some dense with meat and assertive, one cooked in lard and layered with white pepper (my favourite, I think), some rich and fruity with tomato with the meat appearing to surf it. I cooked ragu with two people in Emilia Romagna. The first was Anna, a wonderful lady based in Savignano sul Rubicone in Emilia Romagna. …

Where to Eat and Drink in Bologna

Emilia Romagna is an Italian province, nestled between Milan, Florence, Venice and Genoa. It is actually two historical provinces, Emilia & Romagna, both with their own food & wine identity, but with common threads. Home to Parma ham, parmsesan cheese & balsamic vinegar, and those are just the most famous ones that you have heard of, it is also the home of pasta, specifically tagliatelle with ragu, lasagne, tortelloni and tortellini in brodo. There are several local breads, gnocco fritto (called torta fritta in Parma), a fried puffed bread that you stuff with salami, and tigelle, small patterned breads traditionally made in stacks of heated round terracotta tiles, now in pans over a fire. The capital, Bologna is a great city to start from. Easy on the eye, brown, orange and yellow buildings are lined with porticoes – arched walkways – which protect from the rain in winter and the sun in summer. It is a gorgeous bohemian city, the perfect size for a weekend exploring, and has much to offer in terms of trattorias, …

A Postcard from Rimini (and Where to Eat)

I am holed up on the floor of a hot train in between carriages. There isn’t much space but I have managed to sit, curled. I can’t quite feel my legs and I am not all that bothered. I have had a great couple of days on an impromptu trip to the Emilia Romagna seaside town of Rimini, and it is cushioning me on the way home. I had heard a lot about Rimini, little of it good. That it was a heavily touristed town and quite tacky. It is a beach town and I hate beach holidays too, although I adore the sea. When on holiday, I like to read (in the shade), mooch and wander, and explore the local food and wine scene. But when I arrived in Bologna, locals started to tell me about the food culture in Rimini, that there were some great restaurants serving local specialities. That the centre of Rimini is an old Roman town. I had no plans for the weekend so I thought, why not? 1.5 hours …

Pellegrino Artusi & A Recipe for Perfect Pasta Dough (Photo Illustrated)

Pellegrino Artusi, Casa Artusi, The Art of Cooking Well in Forlimpopoli & A Recipe for Perfect Pasta Dough (Photo Illustrated) Pellegrino Artusi is widely referred to as the father of Italian cuisine. Penning the first pan Italian cookbook, (self) published only 20 years after the unification of Italy in 1891 and in the language of the new unified Italy (which was the dialect of Florence), when he was 71. Artusi’s cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, featured over 475 recipes gathered from Italian home cooks on his travels as a business man. 15 editions were published before he died 20 years later, with many further recipes added (finishing with 750). Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well was predicted to be a commercial failure by Italian publishers at the time, and they refused to publish it, but it was a tremendous success. It has been in print since publication, and is in almost every Italian home. It has been translated into several languages also (it was translated …

A Postcard from Parma and Torrechiara, Emilia Romagna

I have just come back from a gorgeous day. The sun shone, the sky was bright blue and was a perfect contrast to the rust brown and lighter buildings. I visited a Parmigiano Reggiano dairy and saw the whole process, I had a wonderful lunch (at a last minute destination – I am glad I made that decision!), and then I visited a prosciutto di parma producer. So far, so awesome. I have been busy eating in Bologna, but I won’t share my list of where to eat here until the end of the trip, as there are many more eating days to go. As mentioned in my last post, you can follow everything as I go on social media which is a more immediate update. Do so by checking in on @eatlikeagirl on twitter and instagram, the Eat Like a Girl page on Facebook, and by following the hashtags#Blogville (twitter) and #InEmiliaRomagna (twitter) in all of those spaces too. I include restaurant names above the picture on instagram, which clicks through to a map too. My day was split between Parma …

Blogville in Bologna & Emilia Romagna: An Eating, Drinking & Cooking Adventure

Bologna and Emilia Romagna await me tomorrow and I could not be more excited. Emilia Romagna is known as the bread basket of Italy, and is home to some of Italys most famous exports like parmesan cheese, parma ham and balsamic vinegar. Bologna itself is home to lasagne, tagliatelle with ragu, tortelloni and tortellini. I will be based in Bologna – and in an apartment, so I will also be able to cook – but I will also be travelling around and exploring the region. Highlights, which you can follow by checking in on @eatlikeagirl on twitter and instagram, the Eat Like a Girl page on Facebook, and by following the hashtags #Blogville (twitter) and #InEmiliaRomagna (twitter) in all of those spaces too. I will be blogging in time, of course, but for a broader and more immediate spread, check in on social media. There will be a group of bloggers in Emilia Romagna using these hashtags, so you will get to see some quite diverse posts on the region. Highlights are many, but I …

A Postcard from Stellenbosch, South Africa

Greetings from Toronto. My fast paced life is a little too full on at the minute, and while I am tired, I love it so I am not going to complain. However, after two long haul economy flights (from Capetown via Jo’burg to London, and London to Toronto), I was thrilled to wake up in a bed this morning. An actual bed! On the ground! Before I get stuck in here, for I have a busy week ahead, I wanted to share a little bit about Stellenbosch with you. I tried last night but fell asleep next to my laptop. I need to set some work / life boundaries. So, Stellenbosch. All I knew was that they produced a lot of good wine, and that the surroundings were pretty stellar. Yes, that was all true, but there was so much more. Terrific restaurants, stunning views, the light, and the lovely warm generous people. Within a few days I was already starting to plan my second visit to the area, there is so much more to explore.